This series looks at what’s behind the recent spike in irrigation, the lack of regulations around groundwater, and the impact this will have on Illinois in the future.
After droughts in 2005 and 2012 led to shortages of top hybrids, seed corn companies decided to take rain into their own hands.
The drought of 2012 was the worst since at least 1988, spanning the entire Corn Belt, from Ohio to Wyoming, and costing the agribusiness industry billions of dollars.
While Illinois is not currently facing a water crisis, highly populated areas with high growth are undergoing some levels of water conflict, partly because of agricultural irrigation.
Experts warn that projected decreases in corn and soybean yields in the coming decades because of climate change could continue the rise in irrigation and drive up prices for farmland above aquifers.
Experts worry that a statewide increase in agricultural irrigation will deplete overall groundwater resources in the future.
Over the past decade, foreign companies have been investing in agricultural land in the United States at a record pace, according to a Midwest Center for Investigative Reporting analysis of USDA data.